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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Thursday, May 08, 2003
Bi-Weekly Review: A.L. East
The A.L. East through May 7th.
AL EAST Standings through May 8th
NEW YORK YANKEES
Surprising nobody but payroll-obsessed sportswriters eager to exclaim how the Yankees were a lock to win 130 games due to their payroll, the bubble finally burst to some extent for the Bombers the last couple of weeks. No, they didn?t play like the Tigers, but they did start dropping games here and there against the AL West.
- Derek Jeter?s playing baseball again and it looks like he?ll be activated off the DL sometime next week. Antonio Osuna will also return to the active roster around the time Jeter does after missing some time with one of those wacky groin pulls.
- While Almonte didn?t fulfill the expectations of hyper Yankee fans after homering in his first game, he did show enough to demonstrate that a Jeter injury isn?t the end of the world and for the Yankees to be talking publicly for the first time about ending the Drew Henson experiment.
- Nick Johnson continues to remind us all why we were so nuts about him in 1999 and now has hit his seasonal high OPS (so far!) of 1.029. 30 walks and counting.
- The rotation has continued to keep the Yankees in games even if the hitters haven?t done their part the last couple weeks. Mussina remained dominant, allowing 4 runs in 24 innings while the others only contributed 2 real clunkers: Jeff Weaver?s 4 inning, 7 run outing against the Rangers and Pettitte?s game against the Mariners on Tuesday.
- Hideki Matsui hit 1 homer and drew 2 walks over the last 2 weeks. Despite getting a hit in 10 of 12 games, his OPS dropped from .740 to .724. The Yankees continue to have a lot of confidence in him and have resisted giving Bubba Trammell more playing time.
- Big Giambi?s fighting knee pain and now the Mendoza Line (203/333/358). I didn?t think he was a great bet to age well, but this is ridiculous. It?s just a month, though, so no reason to get excited yet. Remember that Rey Ordonez is having a better year at the plate than Miguel Tejada.
- His hot start has hidden it in his overall stats, but Bernie Williams has crashed to Earth the last couple of weeks with only 2 extra-base hits. Better hope he?s OK as the Yankees haven?t been big at carrying someone to fake center in a Bernie absence.
- When talking about SS defense, Jeter now actually ends up on the sunny side of "is better than" for the first time ever, thanks to Almonte.
The Yanks have the return games at home against the Angels and Rangers for the next week before heading to Boston and back home for a 4-game set against the Blue Jays.
BOSTON RED SOX
With the Yankees splitting their games, the Red Sox managed to chip away at the early lead, winning 2 of 3 from the World Champions (of course, everyone?s doing that) and taking 5 of 6 from the 1st place Kansas City Royals. The only black mark in the game was losing 2 of 3 to the Twins at home when Minnesota actually figured out how to score runs again.
- Casey Fossum 4.37 ERA ? Bartolo Colon 4.38 ERA
- While the rest of the bullpen has either been up and down or injured, Brandon Lyon has quietly solidified his role as a key member of the Sox bullpen, loss against the Royals this week excepted. Along with newly acquired Jason Shiell (9.2 innings, 2 runs), Lyon?s doing his best to get the bullpen ERA down to respectable levels.
- He?s still not where he should be, but Manny Ramirez is still getting enough hits to keep that OPS at productive levels. Was red-hot until going to Kansas City where he went 1-13 .
- Wail-Away Shea may be there to stay, at least for the time being. but Bill Mueller is the uh?Sock?that?s making it happen offensively at the hot corner. For the 2-week period covered by this review, Mueller went 17-42 with 7 doubles, 2 homers and 7 walks. He?s up to .346/.422/.603 and while it won?t last, it?s pretty while some others are off to slow starts.
- Chad Fox was pitching a lot better until remembering that he was Chad Fox and ending up on the disabled list.
- Some over-optimists suggested that Jeremy Giambi would get his OPS even closer to his older brother?s this year. They?re right so far, but it?s .637 against .691, not what people envisioned when the Red Sox sent Josh Hancock to the Phils for him.
- John Burkett is John Burkett.
- In every appearance this season with the exception of his first, Timlin?s either shut out the opposing team or allowed 2 runs or more. It?d be easier to manage this bullpen thing if Timlin would decide whether to be Dennis Eckersley or a Detroit Tiger on a consistent basis.
The Orioles juiced one of the easiest schedules around to actually pop up above .500 for a brief, shining moment at the start of May. Nobody bought it, however, and attendance at Camden Yards continued to drop to historic lows with paid attendance of only 17,267 for Monday night?s loss against the Tigers. Actual attendance probably didn’t get to 5 digits.
- Jason Johnson received his first loss through no fault of his own and continues his quality start streak, having chalked one up in each of his six starts this season. Johnson?s ERA stands at 2.27, making his expected winning percentage about .500 or thereabouts.
- The man who should be playing shortstop, Melvin Mora, survived two weeks of keeping his OPS above .900 with 7 multi-hit games.
- Surhoff was placed on the DL. And to think I actually used to like the guy. The Orioles are becoming more and more like Irwin Allen?s worst disaster flick, The Swarm. Like the movie, the Orioles are full of people you?ve heard of giving generally lackluster performances, collecting one last paycheck at the end of their careers.
In the movie, a few kids decide that the smartest way to get rid of the swarm of killer bees is to throw a couple Molotov cocktails at them and hide under trashcans. The triumphant kids gloat about it until they find out that the bees sought revenge and killed off most of the nearby town. That?s Beat Again and Angelos to a "T." I can?t decide if B.J. Surhoff is the Henry Fonda paraplegic scientist who dies because he decided to test a killer bee vaccine on himself (took him a whole 10 minutes to develop!) or the Fred MacMurray horny old man who gets killed when the bees blow up a train (!).
- That 3-game sweep of the Orioles at home against the Tigers. It?s so bad that it has to be mentioned again.
- The free agent acquisition pitchers continue to stink up the joint: Daal?s ERA is over 5, Helling?s is approaching 6, and when Pat Hentgen got a start thanks to Rodrigo Lopez? DL stint, he pitched poorly for 4 innings.
- Deivi Cruz? OPS is .420. By giving the Orioles zero performance this season rather than sub-replacement level schlock, Albert Belle continues to be the most valuable Oriole free agent signing for 2003.
- The callup of Robert Machado actually gives the Orioles a large upgrade at catcher while Fordyce is on the bereavement list. No truth to the rumors that Fordyce was put there after looking himself up on baseball-reference.com.
- The Orioles did their best to end the comparison of the Tigers to NL pitchers by allowing 22 runs to the woeful Motowners in that oft-mentioned 3-game sweep.
A 7-game road trip to Chicago and Kansas City before coming home for a 3-game set against the Devil Rays. After that, things get ugly as the Orioles with a pretty tough schedule over the next 3 months. Angels, Rangers, Angels, Rangers, Astros, Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers, Jays, Braves, Jays, Phillies, Yankees, Jays, Mariners, A?s, Angels, Rangers, Yankees, Jays, Twins, Red Sox, Twins, Rangers.
Then, on August 11, the Orioles get to play the Devil Rays again. Will they still have more wins than the Tigers?
Probably the last time they appear in 4th place in one of these reports. The Blue Jays (enjoy the name while it lasts) have been this division?s yo-yo team this season. It?s the second week in May and they?ve already had 2 5-game winning streaks and losing streaks of 4 and 6 games. Since the last report, the Jays have been in "on" mode, going 9-4 to get back to respectability thanks to a sweep of the Angels and taking two series from the Rangers and Royals. The lone series loss, down in Texas, was due to Toronto?s Achilles? heel again, the pitching.
- Carlos Delgado has been hitting like the Carlos Delgado who the Jays gave that big contract to a few years ago. Already sporting a pretty .329/.463/.605 on the morning of the 24th, Delgado?s gone 17-39 with 6 homers since then, ratcheting up that OPS to a 1.208.
- The rest of the lineup, with one notable exception, is generally performing up to expectations. The pitching has not come through the way they hoped, but if the Jays can keep hitting 291/359/470 as a team, they can keep the record respectable regardless. The Rangers have trouble pulling it off due to the division they?re in, but there?s no reason that the Jays can?t reel off a bunch of wins against the Orioles and Devil Rays this year.
- Roy Halladay has looked nothing like the Cy Young candidate of 2002, pitching like, well, the rest of the Blue Jays. The Jays knew going in that their rotation wouldn?t be anywhere close to the A?s?, but they hoped for a reasonable follow-up performance by Halladay, some good outings by Lidle, and 3 pitchers that could stay in games without getting their brains beat out. Hasn?t happened so far and Lidle?s leading the rotation with a dismal 4.80 ERA. Doug Davis can help out if he pitches like he should be but the Jays will have a hard time surviving Halladay not recovering.
- The bullpen?s equally as putrid as the rotation with the exceptions of Cliff Politte (3.29 in 13.2 with 13Ks) and, surprisingly enough, Doug Creek. Escobar has apparently lost his closer job for now to Politte, no doubt thanks to a decidedly un-swanky 10.13 ERA. The Jays have never found a spot for Escobar to have long-term success and he?s now filled more roles than Dante Bichette at an all-you-can-eat BBQ.
- Eric Hinske?s bat still hasn?t come around, the last two weeks doing nothing to get his OPS on the right side of .700.
- Roy Halladay?s 12 home runs allowed is already 2 more than he allowed during the entire 2002 campaign.
3 games against Anaheim and then a 3 game series against the Devil Rays at home before starting a 10-game road trip against the Royals, White Sox, and Yankees. They should take firm control of 3rd place by the time they leave Toronto for Kansas City and hope to go 5-5 or 6-4 on the trip.
TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
Not a good 2 weeks for the Rays thanks to dropping 6 games (in two non-consecutive sets of 3) to the Twins. Series wins against the Orioles and Tigers only partially salvaged the fortnight, but the Devil Rays are as dead as Cleveland, Grover or Indians, take your pick.
- Rocco Baldelli continues to play the role of the good toolsy outfielder, cooling off somewhat but still at a batting average of .355. His walk total remains ahead in the race against his triple total, 4-3.
- Rey Ordonez continues to display signs of a talent transplant in the offseason, but all in batting average. If he?s still 2nd on the team in homers in a month maybe it?s time MLB start considering swapping the Devil Rays with one of the more successful AAA franchises.
- Damion Easley was signed and moved to third base as a Ray. I still find it pretty sad that the Devil Rays apparently had so much trouble finding a terrible third baseman that they actually had to move a terrible second baseman to fill the role. Releasing Easley (1 for 7 last two weeks) isn?t hard and should have been done already. Easley’s out with leg contusions, which I find sort of pointless since he never reaches base or fields a ball anyway.
- Carl Crawford?s been the exact opposite of Baldelli so far this season. He?s at .240/.260/.295 and has been hovering around that all season, as brief as it has been. He?s clearly overmatched, however, and while I?m generally in favor of players taking their lumps, Crawford?s been truly useless at the plate. Bonds would probably be better offensively with a .025 batting average than Crawford at .240.
- On opening day, Tampa drew 34,391 fans. They?ve had 5 series of 3 games at home so far this year and failed to draw 34,391 total in all but the series against the Yanks.
Lots of losses. More specifically, the Tigers, Jays, Orioles, Rangers, and Angels.
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